Chili of Boyfriends Past

These last few weeks I haven’t just been reliving the most recent breakup in my thoughts, but every one before it. The long and short, past and recent, have ended in similar fashion – boy leaves girl #1 after lying to be with girl #2 because, at least for the short-term, girl #2 appears skinnier/funnier/prettier/wealthier/taller or just all-around the better choice.

The latter have all had an epiphany that makes them question or regret their decision. Every. Single. Time. How do I know this? Because they ultimately sought out girl #1 to say so. Maybe their guilty conscience makes it hard to sleep at night?

I really should have written a book. I could at least be independently wealthy by now.

Back when this blog was known as its previous self, I shared a recipe for chicken chili from boyfriends past. I haven’t cooked that chili again in more than two years. My thoughts wandered back to that chili when I was perusing my pins to decide what was going to be on this week’s menu. As I’ve mentioned, I haven’t felt like myself. Cooking was my therapy five years ago – the tangible when I didn’t quite know how to cope with the unfortunate situation I found myself in as a 22-year-old – and for now I don’t want much to do with it. So I just needed a pot of food that could cook itself with a few ingredients and I could reheat and eat for days. But I can’t bring myself to cook that chicken chili.

That’s how Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Chili was born. Unfortunately, I don’t think my nutritionist will be too impressed at my next appointment about the sausage.

Disclaimer: I’m not kidding when I say this chili is spicy! If you’re weak, I’d go the pre-packaged chili spices route to start instead of my spice measurements. But it’s the roasted red pepper and hot Italian sausage that make it different.

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Chili

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Chili

3/4-1 lb. lean ground beef
1/4-1/2 lb. hot Italian turkey sausage, casing removed
2 red bell peppers
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 Serrano chili, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-28 ounce can diced tomatoes and juices
4 ounces sliced Jalapeno peppers
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1-15 ounce can low-sodium kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet or saute pan, brown the ground beef and sausage until meat is no longer pink and drain.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice red bell peppers in half and lay flat side down on a baking sheet. Roast in oven for approximately 10-15 minutes until soft and blackened on edges. Cool until cool enough to handle and peel away skin. Chop coarsely and reserve.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, cook the onions, green pepper and Serrano pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally until soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, for about 2 minutes.

Add the ground beef, sausage, diced tomatoes, Jalapeno peppers, chili powder, Tabasco, oregano, paprika and cumin. Bring to a boil, then add kidney beans and reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, with cover slightly ajar, for about 1 1/2 hours.

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Friendsgiving

Perhaps better known as “Cranberry Barbecue Pulled Turkey” or “That Thanksgiving I Felt Completely Suffocated by a Turkey.”

Cooking and baking for friends and family has always brought me enjoyment and happiness. It’s the reason I always volunteer to bring a dish to the next get-together. I’ll even cook or bake for no special reason and hand-deliver dinner and/or dessert to your doorstep, especially if I know work or life has kept you too busy to think about your next meal. It’s my way of showing how much I care about you (but you have to be really special in my book to get that treatment).

One of my favorite new traditions in the last four years has been Friendsgiving the week before Thanksgiving. I haven’t left my house much in the recent month with the exception of work, gym and errands to the grocery store and Target. Before I knew it, Friendsgiving had descended upon me much quicker than I thought, and was going to force me to cook one of the month’s two actual meals and be social. And in true fashion, I decided to over do it and not only cook the turkey for the third time out of four years, but try a new, non-traditional recipe because I was looking for any type of change in my life to help get me out of my funk.

It all seemed like a great idea, since cooking usually has a way of being a sort of therapy, but then I had a busy week at work and felt like the to-do list was piling up and the cubicle walls were caving in. I realized I was on my way to becoming a hoarder when I couldn’t see my dining table or sit on my sofa – I hadn’t cleaned my apartment in, um, too embarrassingly long to tell (and shocking for anyone who knows me and my normal cleanliness and organization). Every volunteer commitment I had made to Make-a-Wish in the last year came to a head in one week. I suffered through one miserable evening that reminded me just how much I was missing someone. And then, the turkey…

I learned you can’t fit 12 lbs. of turkey into a crockpot at one time, just saying.

The turkey took me two days to cook each turkey breast separately (lots of people = lots of turkey), including one 5:30 a.m. wake up call to chop meat before putting the second turkey in to cook while I was at work and one late night spent on the kitchen floor with a bottle of wine after said miserable evening feeling like 12 lbs. of turkey was sitting on my chest. I could not escape the smell of barbecue turkey, even with the windows open and 40 degree temperatures.

Of course, everyone said they loved the Cranberry Barbecue Pulled Turkey. I don’t think I even tasted it – I had completely lost my appetite by Friendsgiving. And I felt absolutely drained of life that I was counting down to my 10 p.m. bedtime on a Friday so I could go home and sleep.

For the first time, cooking felt like a chore. I don’t know what to make of this. Today I sat at my desk looking at my December calendar filling up with cookie exchanges and potlucks. Will I make it a point to be there? Yes. But a warning: You might get ready to bake, refrigerated Pillsbury cookies this year.

Disclaimer: This recipe really was the simplest way to ever cook a turkey and extremely moist. So I hope you give it a try and enjoy it on my behalf, even if you go the traditional route of butter, salt and pepper or an herb marinade instead of barbecue. Just put it in the crockpot on low for 8-10 hours or until the thermometer pops. The cranberry barbecue sauce would also make for tasty post-Thanksgiving leftovers.

Cranberry Barbecue Turkey

Cranberry Barbecue Pulled Turkey

6 lbs. bone-in turkey breast

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons jalapeño pepper, finely chopped, seeds removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups whole berry cranberry sauce
1 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons mustard
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add onions and jalapeño and cook over medium heat until the onions have softened. Add garlic and continue to cook for approximately one minute. Add cranberry sauce, ketchup and mustard and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Remove from heat.

Place turkey breast in the crockpot and season with salt and pepper generously. Pour 1/4 – 1/2 of the barbecue sauce over the turkey. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or until the thermometer pops.

Shred or chop the turkey. Drain the juices from the crockpot. Place the shredded turkey back in the crockpot, add remaining barbecue sauce and simmer on high for about 30 minutes until hot. Serve on potato dinner rolls. A great non-Thanksgiving side dish would be Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese.